While studying at UNC’s School of Public Health, each student embraced a particular philosophy that became central to his or her drive to get a degree in nutrition. One classmate believed the U.S. dietary guidelines paralleled the rise in obesity; another abhorred cow’s milk; and still another thought carbohydrates were evil. My obsession? Dietitians should know how to cook! We should be able to show people how to prepare the food we are advising them to eat. We need to give our clients the tools to make them successful as they amend their dietary habits ... because cooking can become a dietary habit.
The recipe below is an example of a primary cooking technique that has been adjusted to allow both meat eaters and vegetarians at the table to enjoy, without requiring the cook to make two separate meals. As a bonus, the recipe’s flexibility allows the cook to utilize ingredients they already have and flavors they prefer.
My “roast chicken principle” stems from the concept of cooking an entire meal in one oven, then using the leftovers to create new meals for the week, such as salads, sandwiches, wraps, casseroles and soups. The chicken bones can even be used to make homemade chicken stock, a staple in any restaurant or home kitchen to increase the flavor of your food. The easiest way to accomplish this meal uses three sheet pans (or roasting pans or baking sheets with sides), olive oil, herbs of your choice, salt and pepper, and a 425-degree oven. And the best thing? It takes one hour to prepare and cook.
Roasted Chicken with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Potatoes
The types of vegetables and potatoes are up to you; however, because the vegetables are all on one tray, they must all cook at the same rate. I have given examples of potential vegetable combinations that should be put in the oven with the amount of time remaining for the chicken to cook. For example, the asparagus should go into the oven with 10 minutes remaining on the timer for the chicken and potatoes.
1 whole chicken, approximately 4 lb.
1 cup white wine, chicken stock, or water
2 lb. of vegetables (pick one seasonal combination)
- 1 lb. baby carrots and 1 lb. frozen pearl onions (35 min.)
- 1 lb. broccoli florets and 1 lb. cauliflower florets (30 min.)
- 1 lb. zucchini and 1 lb. yellow squash, cut into ½-inch slices and quartered (15 min.)
- 2 lb. of asparagus (10 min.)
3 lb. of sweet, red, or Yukon gold potatoes (or a combination of all three), cut into equal sized pieces approximately ½-inch in size
Fresh herbs of your choice (I like thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary.)
1. Arrange three racks in your oven so they are equally spaced and wide enough to fit three sheet pans. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, using the convection function if your oven allows.
2. Using kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the chicken (or ask your butcher to do this for you), or you can watch how to do it here.
3. Place the butterflied chicken on a roasting rack on top of a sheet pan or roasting pan. Rub the chicken with olive oil and season with 1 tsp. of salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Pour the wine, stock, or water into the bottom of the roasting pan to combine with the drippings and provide some steam in the oven to prevent the chicken from drying out.
4. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, and 1 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs. Transfer to a clean sheet pan in a single layer.
5. Put the chicken and potatoes into the oven on different racks. Set the timer for 45 min.
6. Meanwhile, in the same large bowl you used for the potatoes, toss the vegetables of your choice with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Transfer to another clean sheet pan and put in the oven when appropriate (e.g. with 35 min. remaining on the timer for carrots and onions). Stir the potatoes and vegetables at least once while cooking.
7. After 45 min., check to see if the chicken, potatoes and vegetables are all cooked. The juices from the chicken in the thigh should run clear, the potatoes should be soft with some light brown spots, and the vegetables should be cooked but not mushy.
8. Remove the chicken meat from the bones, or cut into portions, and serve with the vegetables and potatoes. If you would like to make gravy, carefully pour the liquid from the bottom of the chicken’s roasting pan into a small saucepan (you can use a fat separator first if you have one). Sift in 1-2 tbsp. of all-purpose flour, or cornstarch if gluten-free, and whisk over medium heat until thickened and the gravy no longer tastes of flour, approximately 2 min.